Mon, Jul 09, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Matsu needs airport boost for casino plan, CAA says

PLACE YOUR BETS:The fate of the tiny island could be fundamentally altered by the decision to build a gambling venue there that necessitates a new runway

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

With Matsu’s air traffic expected to increase following a referendum to establish a casino resort on the island, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said yesterday that Beigan Airport needs to be expanded to accommodate larger aircraft.

Residents of Matsu voted on Saturday in favor of the construction of a casino resort.

However, for the project to go ahead, one of the urgent issues to be resolved is air transport. Further, the airports on two of the largest islands in the Matsu archipelago — Beigan (北竿) and Nangan (南竿) — often close because of thick fog.

The CAA said that prior to the gaming referendum that the government already had plans to upgrade the airport in Beigan, where the casino resort would likely be located.

The plan calls for the airport to be upgraded from a 2C classification to 3C. To meet the criteria for a 3C-class airport, Beigan’s runway would have to be lengthened from 1,150m to between 1,200m and 1,800m.

An upgrade of the navigational systems would mean the minimum visibility requirement could be reduced from 2,400m to between 1,600m and 2,000m, and the percentage of abortive flights caused by fog or other weather conditions would thereby drop by 2.32 percentage points to 4.01 percent.

The estimated cost of upgrading the airport facilities is about NT$8 billion (US$268 million).

Even if Beigan Airport were upgraded to 3C-class, the CAA said it would still only be able to accommodate small aircraft, such as Uni Air’s ATR 72-600, which has a capacity of 72 passengers.

The CAA said it has discussed with the Lienchiang County Government — which administers the Matsu archipelago — about the potential increase in flight demand should the county press ahead with its casino development plans.

The two parties reached a consensus that the airport would need to be further upgraded to 4C-class to accommodate aircraft that carry more than 100 passengers, and the runway would need to be longer than 1,800m as well.

While the national government is willing to pay for an upgrade from 2C-class to 3C, the company that plans to invest in the casino resort would have to pay for the further upgrade to 4C, the CAA said, adding that the further upgrade could cost an additional NT$8 billion to NT$10 billion.

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